Still travelling hopefully


I had to go and see somebody on  business. Not a pleasure trip, just part of local people earning a living. The problem is, the person I went to see lives in the National Park. They’re only 28 miles away but that trip took over an hour. To be fair, the 10 miles within the Park took up half of the journey time.

Also to be fair, I wasn’t bothered by tourists or even locals blocking the road and slowing me down. It was just the road. It was a road that was designed for use by driven sheep, people riding ponies and the occasional cart. At some point they gave it a coat of tarmac and you never know, they might one day repeat the experience.

One problem the Lake District faces is that it has an infrastructure that would be a bit old and creaking for the forty thousand people who live within the park. But when faced with the twenty million visitors a year the park now gets, it’s totally inadequate.

The photo shows the road over the Hardknott pass, looking west.


As an aside, there is very little public transport within the Park, which means the locals, along with everybody else, are forced into their cars. But for much of the area public transport in the form of a bus service probably isn’t the answer.

Take Coniston as an example. Even if it was the centre of a decent bus service, there is the problem that there are parts of the road where the bus struggles to
get past a lorry, a biggish van, or in some cases even the tourist in a Chelsea tractor!
Can you imagine trying to keep to timetable on a Broughton to Coniston bus? Sections of A593 are virtually single track with tall stone walls on both sides.
But the infrastructure problem runs deeper than that. The X112 bus, which runs from Barrow to Coniston through Ulverston, has enough problems on the A590, never mind on the Coniston road. At irregular intervals somebody puts traffic light up in Ulverston near the Booths roundabout and suddenly Ulverston becomes a car park. On Monday I drove to meet a friend in Grizedale and the traffic into Ulverston from the Kendal side was backed up almost to Arrad Foot. That’s about two miles.
On Tuesday I took the ‘Ulverston avoiding route’ to get to Coniston, I went
via Broughton. It’s not too bad if you want to get to Coniston or even
Ambleside, but a bit of a beggar if you want to go to Lancaster.
But back to the X112, there have been times when they’ve just had to abandon their timetable, and with it any attempt to cover the complete route. So really the problem lies with Cumbrian infrastructure not just Park infrastructure. To an extent the Park is part of that problem. Various environmental and countryside lobby groups put up a bitter fight to stop improvements of the A66 and the A590. These are the two arterial routes which allow people in the West of Cumbria to get to enjoy such frivolities as hospital services and the motorway.
But we then have another problem, even if you fix the roads, where on
earth are people going to park? Finding parking in Coniston or any other of
the small tourist towns can be a nightmare, they’re full.
Just to add to the pressure, visitor numbers seem to have been growing faster than anticipated, we weren’t supposed to have 20 million visitors until about 2025. At the current rate of growth we’ll pass the thirty million visitors mark in less than a decade.

Anyway it looks that if you’ve got a journey through Cumbria to contemplate, you’d be wise to take a good book with you.

Coincidentally, I’ve just published one

Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat

Instead of his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with a gripping adventure. Why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.

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11 thoughts on “Still travelling hopefully

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt November 16, 2018 at 6:02 pm Reply

    I remember a book on public speaking I read while preparing for my thesis orals. It said, that if, as a public speaker, you should want to get everyone on your side before you get to the controversial parts of your speech, you should mention ‘the parking problem.’ And complain. That it is universal not to have enough or convenient parking.

    Some American parks handle this by limiting entrance to those for whom there is space. At the Grand Canyon, no one is allowed to bring a private car in – and they provide shuttle buses and designated stops. Fortunately for me, the one exception is a handicapped vehicle, so I was actually able to make my family’s life easier where my lack of mobility usually means they are slowed down: I would drop them off at one hiking point, and then go sit at a pickup place, and enjoy the view while they hiked there. You can never get enough of the Grand Canyon, so this was no problem for me.

    • jwebster2 November 16, 2018 at 6:17 pm Reply

      Remember that in the UK, national parks are private property. They’re not state owned. The Lake District National Park is 912 square miles, Over half is owned by individual farmers and private landowners, and contains four small towns, Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, and Bowness-on-Windermere. Just to make it even more complicated, people in parts of the county have to cross the National Park just to get to the rest of England.

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt November 17, 2018 at 12:07 am

        I can’t remember what I never knew, so thanks for the explanation. I had a hard enough time with public vs. private schools in the UK!

      • jwebster2 November 17, 2018 at 7:16 am

        don’t worry, we have a hard time with public v private schools in the US 🙂
        But our parks are created in a landscape that is already full, the South Downs has a population of 107,929 gives you a fair idea of where the parks are and why they are designated 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt November 17, 2018 at 9:08 pm

        Thanks for the informative link.

        As for schools in the US: public money (taxes) pays for public schools (for the general public).

        If you have private means (money), you can buy your kid a more exclusive (and expensive) education in a private (not anyone can come) school.

      • jwebster2 November 17, 2018 at 9:25 pm

        Our term may be older than the American republic 🙂
        Basically schools originally drew their pupils from the local area, but some developed a better reputation and they began taking pupils from away whose parents could afford the fees for living in. Thus they were open to the public, not merely the locals.

  2. Auntysocial November 16, 2018 at 10:34 pm Reply

    Have often wondered why farmers / horsey folk, pub landlords and locals don’t get together and have watering holes suitable for horses, carts and places to park up have a drink and encourage more people to take in the scenery with ridden or driven horses.

    When I was a kid we’d often have horse and cart outside the pubs, slightly tanked up blokes giving the horses pints of Guinness and telling us if we wanted we could ride them back to the farm as long as we sorted them out and put all the tack away clean and tidy. They made out like we were being given a special treat (we were) but in reality we were parking up and sorting their horses so they could stop at the pub until last orders haha!! Well played though 😉

    If I had a pub dotted anywhere near this place I’d have stable tie rings, buckets, hay nets, designated park and ride spots for horse and cart. If I had my own yard / stables I’d advertise rides and hacking and trekking with a stop off for pub grub, pint and pony net crammed with hay. Whacking up some decent shelter or stables for overnight stay with an extra charge for hay and shavings supplied by the local farms would be another.

    Cumbrian Heavy Horses have an arrangement with one or two pubs for B&B packages but they have their own stables and livery service to offer.

    The real winner would be overnight accommodation smack bang in the middle of all this with a bed, shower, breakfast and a nice clean stable bedded down with hay, water and shavings for the horses.

    If I happen to win the lottery or otherwise come into enough cash it’s on my list and I’ll make you my first port of call.

    • jwebster2 November 17, 2018 at 7:20 am Reply

      I can personally see the advantages but I suspect some of it is a safety issue. We get 20 million visitors who don’t know how to drive on narrow country roads, and they go do fast, or alternatively go too slowly and when they meet somebody sit like a rabbit in the headlights in the middle of the road unable to back and terrified of the walls on either side
      Then there is the sheer narrowness of the roads. I was in a queue of cars following a group of cyclists over Dunmail. They were riding in single file but nobody could get past them
      Horses are the same problem but are more likely to be spooked than cyclists

  3. patriciaruthsusan November 19, 2018 at 7:44 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Jim Webster laments on traffic problems in a Lake District National Park. He also has information on one of his books, Tallis Steelyard six men in a boat, you can read on the trip.

  4. patriciaruthsusan November 19, 2018 at 10:14 am Reply


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